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1935 Epiphone Olympic Masterbilt
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Serial #: 8710, Long Island Masterbuilt label
Body size at lower bout: 14 1/2" Scale length: 25 1/2" Nut width: 1 11/16"
Finish: Original sunburst finish, nitrocellulose lacquer type
Materials: Solid carved spruce top; arched figured curly mahogany back and sides; one-piece mahogany neck; solid rosewood fingerboard; single-bound body, solid bone nut.
Hardware: 100% original hardware includes adjustable rosewood bridge; nickel trapeze tailpiece; nickel open back three-on-a-plate tuners with ivoroid buttons; contoured black bakelite pickguard.
Notes: We know little of the musical career of one Stephen Pilch of There Rivers, MA. At the age of 26, he was employed at the Otis Company, a local canvas and textile manufacturer. He began lessons on Spanish Guitar from Miss Viola Nolin, at the La Fosse Music Studio, at 305 Dickinson Ave, on May 4th, 1935. Despite the fact that he was sporting a brand new Epiphone Olympic Masterbilt guitar, he apparently lasted only nine lessons, at $1 apiece, according to the punch card we found in its case (Starbucks, eat your heart out.)
Which is evidently why that shiny little archtop has remained in peaceful respite for some 85 years, as Mr. Pilch never finished his 54 week lesson contract. And so it remains in shockingly pristine condition, and with the most amazing assortment of vintage case candy we've ever seen.
One of the debut Epi archtop models, the Olympic first appeared in 1931, and remained in the catalog until 1949. Unlike the Gibson archtops of comparable size, the Olympic has a true long scale neck and suspended fingerboard, enhancing its formidable projection, and permitting installation of a floating pickup if desired.
We'd assumed that these models would be fairly plentiful. Until we started looking for them. But once alt-country guitar hero David Rawlings adopted a '35 Olympic as his all-purpose touring and recording guitar, we began getting requests for them that we just couldn't fill at any price. And when collectors began searching them out in earnest, it quickly became apparent just how seldom these rarities come to market, much less in such staggering condition.
Until recently discovered, this guitar had remained in the care of the same family since it was purchased brand new. With an exceptionally figured back of rare curly mahogany, and a soundboard of sold carved Adirondack spruce, the guitar has remained in museum quality condition, with all original hardware and finish, no cracks or repairs and apparently, no more than nine lessons worth of play. The classic C profile neck has smooth low action over a fresh high-precision setup, and excellent bridge height. The voice is bright, forward and punchy, with exceptional clarity and projection.
Weighing in at barely 4lb, the instrument is phenomenally light in weight, and beautifully balanced. The original fretwork remains bright, with no thumb or fingerboard wear apparent. The original hardshell case is included, a scarce item, as most Olympic models were supplied with flimsy softshell cases at the time. But there's more.
In the case we found the complete record of Mr. Pilch's musical education. His lesson contract. Three notebooks with his handwritten musical notation (one labeled 'Juggernauts of War', with a French tank from WWI on its cover.) A transposing chart, handbills for the Roy Smeck Professional Hawaiian Guitar Outfit and Smith's 100 Hawaiian Guitar Solos. And the Adams Self Instructor For The Guitar, price 50 cents in the USA.
And among the Black Diamond string packages in the case pocket, we find a spring loaded cork lined capo, a nut riser for Hawaiian play, and a genuine Elton solid brass bar with thumbwell, Pat. Applied For. The whole shootin' match, in one handsome original Epiphone black wrinkle finish hardshell case.
One doesn't need Nostradamus to predict that a finer example of this pioneering model will ever be found. One only, start your engines: call now.
Setup: Bridge compensation strobe tuned; string slots at nut and bridge inspected and recut as necessary; bridge foot contour inspected and fit to top as necessary; bridge radius inspected and recurved as necessary; bridgewheels and tuners lubricated; fingerboard and bridge oiled; body and neck cleaned and hand polished.
This instrument is strung with medium gauge phosphor bronze strings (.013). The guitar will accommodate lighter or heavier gauge strings, according to preference. String action is set at 4/64" to 5/64" at the 12th fret, with moderate relief for acoustic playing with medium strings. The action may be lowered or raised to your requirements with the adjustable bridge.
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